Finding the courage to be yourself –– and showing up as your full self everyday –– isn’t the easiest thing to do for most. But that’s exactly what Park Howell put his time and energy into doing and it’s been one of the keys to living a fulfilling life, personally and professionally.
As the founder of The Business of Story, a platform-based system that helps purpose-driven brands find their voice and connect through the art of storytelling, Park knows firsthand the struggles that come with growing a business. Well, two in his case. He is also the founder of Park&Co., an advertising and marketing agency, which has been in business for over 24 years, as well as the host of The Business of Story podcast.
In this episode of The Success Lab Podcast, we have a frank discussion with Park about what the early days were like as a startup entrepreneur, how he eventually achieved a true work-life balance, and the importance of simply showing up and following up.
Read on for a selection of questions, and listen to the entire interview by clicking the player above.
What led you to create Park&Co.?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle area. I graduated from Washington State University and moved down to Phoenix in 1985 thinking I was going to be here for a year or two. But I met my wife and had three kids and have been here ever since. While here, I started working as a writer for a public relations firm. I really love the creativity of copywriting for advertising so I moved over to the ad world side. I worked then in-house for a company called Quorum International as its creative director. When I left there, I knew it was time for me to start my own ad agency so I started as a one man band and grew it from there.
What were those early days like?
In the early days I was literally working out of this tiny little room in the back of our very first house that we bought while raising our three kids. Like any entrepreneurial struggle, you get up early, you get on the phone, you deal with clients, and you fend off little kids trying to get your attention while you’re trying to get work done at home. You live that for what seems like 24/7 for the first couple of years until you get your feet beneath you. I was very blessed because my very first client was Forever Living Products International. They brought me into their fold like family and I worked with them for about 18 years and still do some consulting with them on the side. My second client was Sky Harbor International Airport and I represented them for about 10 years. I had a really fortunate one-two punch with clients when starting up my agency.
What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered in growing Park&Co.?
I remember on a couple of occasions becoming very overwhelmed by biting off way more than I could possibly chew. Although I had the energy to put into it, I was also looking at work-life balance with our family. I grew up in a family of seven kids and my parents were always there for us. Balance is really important to me. It’s something you chip away at it and hope to figure it out sooner than later. We did, but it was a challenge, especially while we were continuing to build the company without spending a lot of money on employees.
What has been one of the best things you’ve done for The Business of Story to help propel its growth?
The (Business of Story) podcast I do once a week. It is a lot of work, but it enables me to connect with amazing minds from all around the world. We cover every aspect of business storytelling. I’ve also got a really excellent person that handles my community development and SEO for my company.
What was one of the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I think the secret to achieving your goals is 50% showing up and 50% following up. You have to do what you say you’re going to do, otherwise you will lose complete and utter credibility.
What connections along your journey have made a big impact?
There was a gentleman who has totally changed the course of my life. His name is Bruno Sarda. At the time, he was working at Dell in sustainability and supply chain and was also teaching at Arizona State University. At a conference in Phoenix, Bruno came over, introduced himself and we became friends. Bruno called me one day and said ASU was looking for a leadership professor and he wanted to invite me to write out the communications curriculum around my storytelling program. I’d never done anything like that before and I ended up doing it for five years. You just never ever know when that person’s going to step into your world and have that tremendous impact.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to fellow entrepreneurs looking to make impactful connections?
Be yourself –– show up as who you are. I know people hear that all the time, but often when we’re young in our careers and we’re trying to look accomplished and as if we have our act together, it gets in the way of who we really are and all the foibles and the vulnerabilities we have. I was talking to my mom, who’s 95 and in great health, and I asked her, “What’s the difference from 30 years ago to who you are now?” She said, “I worry a heck of a lot less.” I would tell people, stop worrying about themselves and get over the fact that you don’t have it all figured out because none of us do.
Coffee drinker, yes or no? Yes.
One business tool you’re geeking out over right now? My Calendly calendar invite system.
Favorite piece of technology? This microphone and the ability to be able to record.
What’s one book you’d pass along to a fellow entrepreneur? One of my favorite storytelling books in business is Shawn Callahan’s Putting Stories to Work.
One person you’d like to make a connection with? Ben Folds. He’s a great songwriter, piano player, and pop rock and roller.
What’s your favorite ice breaker when introducing yourself to someone (either online or off)? I don’t have one icebreaker that fits all. I have to first look at the background and I’ll ask a question particular to their situation so I can connect with them as quickly as possible.
How many hours of sleep do you get each night, on average? I get between six and eight hours.
How can people connect with you or The Business of Story? Head on over to the website businessofstory.com. If you have any questions specific to me, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or we also have a private Facebook group, a Business of Story for leaders. We welcome all newcomers who are interested in learning how to better communicate and have more confidence in their communication using the power of story. Park How